Abe has pegged the meaning of Christine O’Donnell. To paraphrase the deathless 1992 campaign slogan: “It’s the political tsunami, stupid.” The Democrats will hope to make the Delaware Senate campaign about O’Donnell’s peculiarities — and it’s their job to do that, just as it’s Republicans’ job to make it about her garden-variety tax-and-spend opponent. But the Democrats won’t be able to undermine the strength of the nationwide voter revolt by branding the Tea Party with the image of Christine O’Donnell. The brand has already been slapped on — and it didn’t deter the notoriously conventional GOP voters in a famously Blue State.
It’s becoming clear that ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, bank bailouts, private-sector takeovers, czars of the week, and epic deficit spending are more alarming to voters than Ms. O’Donnell’s views on sanctity in private life. As a (relevant) aside, I give most voters credit for understanding that O’Donnell doesn’t propose using the power of the state to enforce on others the particular views for which she has recently gained notoriety. That level of interference in private life is antithetical to the Tea Party demand for smaller government; indeed, under the daily assault of Obama’s energetic regulators, a growing number of voters are associating such intrusiveness explicitly and resentfully with the political left.
But the national electoral dynamic this year isn’t about O’Donnell; it’s about changing course. And in making their choice, the Republican voters in Delaware showed a perfect comprehension many senior conservatives haven’t. A vote for Mike Castle was, in fact, a vote for the status quo. The voters knew what they were voting for — and many of them would have said that the kind of strategic voting urged on them by pundits and political professionals is exactly what has produced the status quo.
I agree with Peter Wehner that Karl Rove is being excoriated unfairly for his stance on the Delaware primary. I think some of the most popular and entrenched figures in conservative politics have some catching up to do, but I predict most of them will do it. Perspicacity is what got them to where they are.
But the people are on the move. George W. Bush said often during the 2004 campaign that the poll that mattered was the one that occurred in the voting booth. In a majority of “voting booth” polls this year, the people have signaled that their dissatisfaction with our current course outweighs everything else. The tsunami is real — and to essay a metaphor, candidates like Christine O’Donnell are riding it on a surfboard. The Democratic Party is largely paralyzed on the beach, and many of the conservatives who don’t want to share its fate will have to get out on their surfboards and do the best they can, under the most unpredictable conditions we’ve seen for a long time.